Monday, October 25, 2010

Apartments in the Lehigh Valley

I recently received this reader email: Hello: I was searching for information relative to the LV due to the fact that my daughter is graduating college (Lafayette) next spring and has been offered a job in Allentown. We are trying to find out information relative to where a 22-year-old can live and do in the area. I am wondering if you had any advice. She is from Boston and likes a balance life between arts, music, sports and bar scene. ----- Here's my response. Thanks for your note. You must be very proud of your daughter! In my opinion, downtown (North Side/Historic) Bethlehem is where most of the 20- and 30- somethings live that enjoy the arts, restaurants, shopping, and live music. It is convenient to Easton and Allentown by Route 22, Route 78 or side roads, and within walking distance of the canal towpath (for walking/running), and a lot of events in the Lehigh Valley take place in downtown Bethlehem. Apartments vary widely, some are new or renovated, others older and consequently a bargain. Lots of second-story walkups, carriage houses and little rental homes. You can easily find them on Craigslist. "Riverport" on the South Side and "Silk Mill" on the North Side are in former industrial buildings but are brand-new inside - lots of people rent their condos at Riverport and a gym and sports bar are attached. There are apartment communities around the Valley but living in Bethlehem will put her at the center of everything. ------ Of course, I recommended Bethlehem - it's where I live and most of the young people I know have lived in downtown Bethlehem at some point and love it. But I know many of you live elsewhere and have different opinions and experiences. What would you have told this very considerate dad with excellent taste in blogs?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Making and keeping resolutions in the Lehigh Valley - Part 1

Here's Part 1 of my series on New Year's Resolutions! Check out the January issue of Lehigh Valley Style for the rest!

A new year always holds renewed hopes and dreams for the 12 months ahead. Many of us take some time over the holiday season to dedicate ourselves to something we wish we did better or differently, less or more. We can’t help it – making resolutions is a time-honored tradition.

Are you starting a journey now, or continuing one you meant to start last year? My friends and I have made resolutions, too, and many of us have had great success achieving them here in the Lehigh Valley. I researched some of the most popular resolutions people make and will share some insider tips on local resources that can help you to stick with it.

I want… to Get a Better Education/Learn Something New

Whether it’s for your own personal enrichment, or to get a better or different job, you may be thinking about furthering your education. The Lehigh Valley’s colleges and universities offer a wide variety of programs for traditional and non-traditional students alike. If you decide to enroll, you’d be in good company – more than 45,000 students get their higher education from 11 local colleges and universities each year. Whether it’s an associate’s degree, a technical degree or that master’s or doctoral degree that you’ve been dreaming about, the Lehigh Valley’s schools offer programs for every budget and schedule – days, nights, weekends, and online. Not sure where to start? Don’t be shy – call one of the recruiters. They can give you advice about their school and help you find your place. The staff at Lehigh University has patiently guided me through stops and starts in my MBA program enrollment… and this year, I’ll finally get back on track (I promise, Corinn!). A few friends have finished that elusive bachelor’s degree as adult students at Penn State Lehigh Valley and Muhlenberg College. Many others are chipping away at graduate degrees and professional certificates via part-time programs at Cedar Crest College, DeSales University and Moravian College. One friend is a Temple medical student, who will complete her last three years of school at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem!

To get specific training, the region’s two community colleges, Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) and Northampton Community College (NCC), offer more programs than you knew were possible. The schools feature workshops and courses in everything from computer training to language skills, culinary arts to local history (and walking tours hosted by yours truly!), at multiple locations in the region. Classes are available for academic credit, and non-credit classes are also offered for those who simply wish to broaden their horizons.

But community colleges aren’t the only place to take a class. Courtney and I tried to learn how to knit last year at The Knitter's Edge, on West Broad Street at 15th Avenue in Bethlehem. The operative word here is “tried.” Our instructor was helpful but firm, and we didn’t give her any lip – she had clearly dealt with amateurs like us before! Most local knitting stores host regular knitting circles and classes on site. Classes are cheap - often $5 or less - and the stores often offer discounts on your purchase of supplies. A writer-friend raves about her positive experiences with the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, which hosts monthly meetings with speakers and “how to” sessions, critique and writing workshops, and an informal writers cafĂ©. They help one another with content as well as the business of writing. If you’re interested in the creative arts, ArtsQuest and the Baum School of Art offer courses for beginners and experienced artists alike. It’s never too late to learn to ski or snowboard – and Bear Creek Resort in Macungie might be the place to do it. Their Snowsports School offers newbies a Discovery Program, an ongoing lesson designed for new skiers and riders that includes all the gear you need, and encourages you to hit the slopes when you feel you’ve mastered the basic skills.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Groupon comes to the Lehigh Valley

Like Brangelina and staycation, Groupon is a made-up word that is greater than the sum of its parts. Groupon negotiates huge discounts on popular local goods, services and cultural events. Then the site offers the deals to subscribers in a free daily email. The deals are activated only when a minimum number of people agree to buy. So subscribers get a great deal and the business gets a ton of new customers. More than just a deal site, Groupon is a city guide, a social tool and, the site claims, the best way to experience your city without paying full price.

Lindsey told me about Groupon a while back: how she and her friends got discounted spa services in New York, how she and Rob scored great bargains for their honeymoon in Charleston, but alas... there was no Groupon in the Lehigh Valley (until now!).

Today I received an email that Groupon is offering its first deal in the Lehigh Valley: "$10 for $20 Worth of Pub Grub and Drinks" at Molly’s Irish Grille & Sports Pub (4 E 4th St. & New St., Bethlehem - location of the former Bridgeworks and Lehigh Pub). On a webinar I attended last week, Seth Godin talked about how Groupon is the fastest-growing company in the US. But it's not all great news: some businesses, in an effort to attract new customers, make deals with Groupon that they can't support. One coffee shop in Portland made a deal with Groupon, attracted 1,000 customers, then nearly went bankrupt trying to uphold its end of the bargain. BusinessInsider sheds light on what might have happened: "Two-thirds of the businesses in a Rice University study reported making a profit off of their offers. The lesson for the other third isn't that Groupon is broken, it's that they did a below average job putting together an offer."

Subscribe to Groupon Allentown/Bethlehem and be the first to know about deals right here, or subscribe to Groupon's emails in other cities if you're traveling for work or taking a vacation!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's new?

If you aren't already following Lehigh Valley Transplant on Twitter and Facebook, doing so is a great way to get updates about events and share your thoughts (or just your enthusiasm - which I love)! Speaking of social media, check out the little widgets (buttons) at the bottom of this post. You can share the posts you read with your social network, email pals, and blog readers by clicking once.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Life in the Lehigh Valley 'Burbs?

Many transplants end up buying homes in neighborhoods that their realtors tell them are "safe," and have "good schools," that are both newly-constructed and far-removed from the cities, transportation hubs, and center of activities in the Lehigh Valley.

This weekend, I met a woman who blushed when she described where she and her family lived (Orefield). "We didn't know better when we moved here," she said, and said how much she and her husband love visiting Bethlehem. But, she said, now it's too late. It got me thinking.

Another woman I know grew up in a small city and now lives in Breinigsville, and now laments having moved out "so far." She used the term "cookie-cutter" to describe her neighborhood, and said there were no decent restaurants or grocery stores nearby. She said feels like she lives in her car.
If you live and work at home in the suburbs, as my friends Lori and Amy do, it can be challenging to meet people, and I credit both of them for going out and finding ways to connect with other women in the Lehigh Valley, through their hobbies (fitness and gardening, respectively).

Some people say many realtors are guilty of racial steering. Basically it refers to when real estate brokers guide prospective home buyers towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race. I don't know about that for sure, but I'd say that some realtors do steer young people and newcomers away from older neighborhoods.

A few friends have told me about how much they enjoy living in their community in Forks Township, where just about everyone is under 40 and has little kids. Since neighbors have a lot in common and everyone moved in around the same time, they started fun traditions like block parties and group yard sales right off the bat. During the day, they go to the community center together, since many women stay at home with the kids, and their partners work/commute long hours in New Jersey.

I'm not saying that there aren't good reasons to live in the 'burbs, especially if you know the area well enough to choose a neighborhood, a developer, and a school district, based on real facts, not myth, history or weird statistics. But if you "don't know better," and you rely on your realtor to recommend, you will likely end up far from the center of Lehigh Valley nightlife, culture, and the activities that many of you tell me you want to do.

How did you end up where you did? Now that you live in the Lehigh Valley, do you wish you had done anything differently, or are you happy with your decision? And why?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Trick or Treat... 7 days a week!

I finally got around to reading my Go Guide, The Morning Call's weekly insert that features some of the most/only original feature writing in the paper. I only subscribe to the Sunday print edition, but magic elves deliver the paper on Thursday and Friday as well, and I don't complain.

This week, the Go Guide is a veritable to do list for fall fun. A million Halloween events, plus a list of every local parade and trick or treat nights. Yes, nights! For some reason, each Lehigh Valley municipality declares its own special time for kiddies (of all sizes) to go door-to-door begging for candy. In Bethlehem, it's Friday the 28th from 6-8 p.m. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE seeing the kids, especially between the ages of 4 and 7, at my doorstep. Dressed as superheroes, princesses and dinosaurs, they are the cutest thing to arrive on my porch since the fall Boden collection shipment came in (don't worry - it's still buying local, sorta - their US warehouse is near Wilkes-Barre, PA!). But the "big kids" without chaperones are a little scary, and I don't mean their masks and makeup. I know that most of them are not from my neighborhood. They're working the system - since different municipalities have Trick or Treat night at different times, they can clean up by hitting a different town each night. I actually admire their entrepreneurial spirit and energy, but after I've handed out 100 pieces, it's lights out. I can't afford to supply every ghoul and goblin in the 610 area code with candy.

Advice to my neighbors: get here early, because the kids from out-of-town are likely to scoop up the good stuff before you even cross the street.